[JURIST] A senior Iraqi Interior Ministry official announced Saturday that Iraqi investigators have a videotape showing Blackwater USA [corporate website] private security contractors shooting unarmed Iraqi civilians and that it has referred the incident to the country's judiciary. Under Iraqi law an investigating judge will review the evidence and decide whether to proceed with a criminal prosecution. Blackwater guards contracted by the US State Department allegedly fired on civilians on September 16, killing 11 and prompting the Iraqi government to withdraw Blackwater's operating license [AP report], although company guards were back on limited duty [AFP report] Friday. AP has more. US federal prosecutors are reportedly also investigating Blackwater for allegedly smuggling weapons into Iraqi black markets. The weapons are said to have ended up in the hands of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) [MIPT backgrounder], which has been designated by the US State Department as a foreign terrorist organization. In early 2007, two former Blackwater contractors pleaded guilty to charges relating to weapons smuggling and have agreed to cooperate with government investigations and testify in future criminal proceedings. AP has more. Blackwater has denied the allegations, saying in a statement posted on its website that that the firm has "no knowledge of any employee improperly exporting weapons." AP has additional coverage.
Private US security contractors in Iraq largely operate outside of Iraqi law [JURIST report] due to an exemption [PDF text] granted by the US government in the days of the Coalition Provisional Authority. A recent bill [text] provision [S. 552, Clarification of Application of Uniform Code of Military Justice During a Time of War] intended to broaden their legal accountability does not apply to private contractors employed by the State Department.